What If? (#1)

At the Arizona K12 Center’s Teacher Leadership Institute
last summer, the phrase of the week was “solutions-oriented.” Strategically,
this angle is necessary for teachers to be heard in education reform.  The
stereotype of the bitter, worn-down, socially stunted school-marm in the
teacher’s lounge lamenting over the state of “today’s generation” is so
completely embraced in popular culture; either that or the super-teacher who
overcomes all obstacles of scarcity of resources, unstable family situations, weak
leadership and bad policy to meet the needs of the students she so loves, that
any individual teacher or group who focuses solely on what is wrong with
education will get nowhere.  

My own tendency is to identify problems, rubs,
hypocrisies, offenses and inadequacies. And so for me, the idea of being
solutions-oriented opened up a whole new way to enter the dialogue.

I think most teachers are, at heart, solutions-oriented.
We solve problems on a daily basis.  However, I often need time to wallow
in “The problem is really…” before I get to the “What if…” stage.
 Time pressure makes it difficult to get to that stage of creative
thinking.  But I have moments of clarity.

Here is one:

What if there was an administrative assistant for every
3-5 teachers?

How would my work change if there were someone whose job is to deal with all the day-to-day tasks that take up so much
teacher time: checking e-mail and scheduling things to my calendar; arranging
parent meetings and appointments for phone calls; sending out notices for
interventions on students who struggle; checking my voicemail and passing on
pertinent information; identifying students with attendance problems;
documenting interventions; reserving the library, book sets, and computer labs;
making copies and scanning things; ordering new toner cartridges for the
printer; keeping track of copy paper and kleenex and staple supplies; sorting
out my “IN” basket; entering grades into the computer; posting grades
periodically, etc.  

At our school, we have student aides, but when it comes to
things related to grades, attendance and parent contact, privacy is a real

With administrative help, I would have more time to
examine data, read my students’ writing and give meaningful feedback, and plan
my lessons to be more engaging. I’d have more time to actually talk with
families instead of agonizing over when I can find time to call home.  

The more I think about it, the more I think that I will
know I’m a true professional when I have support in carrying out the more
technical aspects of my job so that I can focus on using my professional
knowledge to solve more complex issues.

This is an expensive proposition.  Yes. But we are playing “What If?” right?  Not looking for obstacles, but possibilities.

I have other ideas. What are your “what if’s”?



Amethyst Hinton Sainz

I currently teach English Language Development at Rhodes Junior High in Mesa Public Schools. I love seeing the incredible growth in my students and being an advocate for them. I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts. Before this position I taught high school English in Arizona for 20 years.

My alma maters are Blue Ridge High School and the University of Arizona. My bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy led me toward the College of Education, and I soon realized that the creative challenges of teaching would fuel me throughout my career. My love of language, literature and culture led me to the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College for my masters in English Literature. I am a fellow with the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and that professional development along with, later, the National Board process, has been the most influential and transformative learning for me. I enjoy teaching students across the spectrum of academic ability, and keeping up with new possibilities for technology in education, as well as exploring more topics in STEM.

In recent years, much of my professional development has focused on teacher leadership, but I feel like I am still searching for exactly what that means for me.

I live in Mesa, Arizona with my family. I enjoy them, as well as my vegetable garden, our backyard chickens, our dachshund Roxy, reading, writing, cooking (but not doing dishes), hiking and camping, and travel, among other things.

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